by Arlen Feldman
“Toby—I’ll wait for you forever, my love.”
Tobias held her hand long after Ada was gone. It was his fault. He’d built two perfect bodies for them, but something had gone wrong with his wife’s. She’d been fine for a few precious minutes, but then it had rejected her.
He built her a marble tomb, carrying the heavy slabs himself. Then he sat next to it for a year. He didn’t eat or drink, since his now perfect body didn’t need to, and it seemed sacrilegious for him to eat when she never would again.
But after a year, he shook his head and stood up. He still grieved, but he felt sure that Ada wouldn’t want him to waste his life.
He travelled. He visited every country, and the North and South Poles, unbothered by the cold. He walked the ocean floor, and saw marvels. He visited the wreck of the Titanic, walked its corridors.
When humans left Earth, he went with them. He swam with the ice whales of Europa, danced with the ethereal cloudform creatures of Saturn, as immune to the planet’s massive pressures as they were.
He dallied with women of the human diaspora, and then, later, with females of a hundred alien species. But he never gave his heart, since that had long since been promised.
And after five-and-a-half billion years, he returned to the sterilized remains of the Earth. The Sun had used up all of its hydrogen and was now expanding.
“It’s time,” said Tobias, and he shut down his protective systems just as the Earth was swallowed by the red dwarf the sun had become.
Tobias blinked. He had expected oblivion, but instead found himself standing in front of a door. He pushed it open and entered a room that looked—and smelled—like the waiting room of a dentist’s office. A few uncomfortable chairs were scattered around, along with short tables that held magazines.
And against one wall, stacked floor to ceiling, were more magazines. Row-upon-row of them. More than he could imagine counting.
He suddenly realized that he was not alone. A woman was sitting on a love seat reading a magazine. The cover story was on Hungary’s Wine Country. She looked up and her eyes widened.
“Toby? Is that you?”
She rose, and she was as beautiful as he remembered, a vision from a past age. She dropped the magazine and walked over to him.
Then she drew back and punched him in the face as hard as she could.